Since you’re visiting the site, it’s a safe bet you know I’m a little bit of a typography hobbyist. A fan. A weekend warrior. Alan Ariail, however, is the real deal. As if to prove the point, his website is Alphabet Guy and he has TYPO in his phone number. Typography is a lot more than a hobby for him, it’s his profession. You’ve most likely been exposed to a lot more of his work than you realize. I first came into contact with Alan’s work while I was at The Hundreds, for whom he’s supplied several beautiful typographic designs. So when a he reached out and offered to do a new logo for this site, how could I resist? Read on to learn more behind the talented gentleman who provided the latest logo up top.
Do you have a formal education in design or typography? I have always had an interest in lettering since I was a child. I was very fortunate early in life to have an excellent high art school teacher who taught students how to ink B/W art and to use speedball nibs and ruling pens. He was the first person I remember discussing black and white contrast in lettering.To this very day I am still thinking about contrast when I letter.
What was your entry-point into the world of lettering? My entry-point happened a few years after finishing college in 1980. I first worked at an ad agency creating hand lettering for industrial accounts. My ad agency experience lead to a package designer position at a food company. After a couple years of lettering for product lines and labels I got on board at a Chicago advertising arts studio. Getting into an advertising arts studio is what I consider to be the beginning of my professional career.
How did you start working within the field professionally? The ad arts studio was a place with LOT of deadline pressure and long work hours in a 6-7 day per week schedule Everything was hand drawn, inked, airbrushed and shot with stat cameras to be produced as camera ready art. I became technically proficient at hand lettering in a true business environment. As a result I learned how to become an independent freelance contractor and began working directly with packaging and design firms as a lettering source…
It seems you have an astounding breadth of clients – is that something you care to speak on? It’s a matter of producing high quality work and dealing with people in a professional manner. I use both artistic and business skills to the best of my ability. I have been fortunate to have working relationships with designers and creatives for many years. With recent exposure of my lettering on the internet I now work on projects with people all over the globe. I’m truly enjoying the experience. Most commercial projects deal with creating comp lettering for presentations. If a lettering treatment is selected for use on a package design it will be fine tuned. These are the comp lettering treatments I created for the Yoplait® Splitz project in 2010. As with most food related projects I worked with a group of very talented package designers while producing this lettering.
What do you consider to be your best-known work? While grocery shopping this morning I saw my lettering on the following packages: Simply Orange, Yoplait® Splitz, Whips, Original, Light, Stockman & Dakota, Canfield’s Sletzer, Kelloggs Mini-Wheats & Raisin Bran, Healthy Choice, Jimmy D’s, Reddi Wip and Mott’s Medleys. In a funny way the local grocery store has become my fine art gallery as I always considered hand lettering an art form.
What about your own personal favorites? Some of my favorites are the ones that never make it to print production. Commercial projects deal with a lot of comp lettering. Multiple styles of the same words for use in a package design presentations. In the past couple of years my lettering interests have gravitated towards gestural writing which is not commercial by nature. This is a natural progression after many years of creating controlled letterforms for a consumer market. Anything goes in gestural mode but legibility is still important and always will be.
What elements, in your opinion, make for strong custom lettering? My simple answer is readability, overall color (B/W contrast) and flow of the letter forms.
Is there anything special you’ve been working on recently? Your Typo-Graphical logo is definitely a special one for me. I wanted to create a logo that will look good many years from now. Its one of my best in quite some time.
Thank you! What are your thoughts on the state of contemporary typography? A lot of what I see has a human element with hand lettering influence.
What about contemporary hand lettering? I am amazed by all of it. We live in such a great time with internet access and opportunities to view countless images of lettering and design in an instant. There are so many unique styles happening that it never gets boring.
Do you think the art form is managing to thrive in spite of the computer age? Yes, and it will continue to do so for the long term. The novelty of using a computer to produce lettering is long gone. It is nothing more than a tool of the trade along with markers, mechanical pencils, brushes, nibs and translucent paper.
These are the basic tools of my trade as a lettering artist. A mechanical pencil, Condor fountain pen, PITT marker, Wacom tablet with pen and iMac with keyboard. A mix of simple writing instruments and complex technology to produce hand lettered art.